The European Commission has called for member states to promote public wireless broadband services such as Wi-Fi.
The Commission adopted a recommendation on Thursday that encourages EU countries to allow for the deployment of what it calls public R-LAN access networks (R as in Radio, but which we know as W-LAN and Wi-Fi) with as little regulatory burden as possible. R-LANs are currently operating mainly in licence-exempt frequency bands.
The Commission said that such networks should be made available without sector specific conditions and subject only to general authorisations.
The recommendation also asked member states to subject the use of available radio spectrum to the least onerous authorisation system, but insisted on the security and confidentiality of public communications networks and services.
Such networks had been originally been deployed within organisations, but are increasingly being made available as a way for the public to wirelessly access high-speed Internet connections in places like airports, train stations and hotel lobbies.
According to Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for enterprise and information society, the recommendation is an important step in encouraging the deployment of multi-platform and high-speed Internet connections.
"The R-LAN technology will give European citizens ready-access to the knowledge based society when in public places, and away from their home location and will be complementary to other means of accessing broadband services," he said.
However, despite this potential, take-up of public WLAN and Wi-Fi in Europe may be affected by high tariffs. Research released in February showed that although Europe has only 12 percent of the world's hotspots, it is one of the most expensive regions to access a public W-LAN. The average price of a subscription in Europe is $62 per month, compared to $39 in the US and $16 in Asia.